Easing the Growing Pains for Facility Management

25 Jul, 2007 By: Michelle Nicolson

Scientific software company discovers that managing its personnel and space expansions with an integrated workplace management system can save time and money.

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For a company like The MathWorks , looking to a software solution to help solve a problem is a natural inclination -- after all, the software company is a global developer and supplier of software for technical computing and model-based design and best known for its MATLAB and Simulink products for scientific and engineering computing.

Yet with all its focus on technology, managing the company office of 300,000 square feet and more than 1,300 employees also takes old-fashioned hard labor, particularly since the company has experienced a high level of growth in a relatively short amount of time -- a 20% increase in two years with a similar rate predicted for the foreseeable future.

With the company growing at that level, its physical premises have required a lot of changes in space allocation, not to mention some significant internal moves as its needs changed. Additionally, the company’s executive team could see the benefit in closely aligning facility management with management’s strategic plan in order to manage the complications associated with its growth.

In 2005 the company began looking for a software solution to help its facility management personnel, a group whose workflow was significantly impacted by the company's fast growth rate. The company already had invested in AutoCAD, so its building data and floor plans were available digitally, but it needed a better way for personnel to access and manage that information. They found a solution in FM:Interact, an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) from FM:Systems .

The MathWorks facility in Natick, Massachusetts.

Integration to Access Information
FM:Interact, a modular suite of Web-based applications, allows organizations to access and analyze facilities, real estate, and maintenance information in real time. Among its capabilities are space management and chargebacks, lease and property management, strategic planning and restacking, move management and onboarding, service requests, and maintenance. It integrates with AutoCAD and other software, and it can be configured to customer processes.

“We wanted to implement a system that utilized the investment we'd already made in AutoCAD, required minimal out-of-the-box setup, and provided us with space planning usage immediately as we're in a high-growth period,” explained Bob Donahue, space planning manager at The MathWorks. It was important that The MathWorks personnel be up and running quickly because they had limited time and resources to dedicate to learning and working with a new solution. With a little in-house training from FM:Systems, the FM:Interact software was installed in one day and the entire system was up and running within one month.

“We've been using FM:Systems since the day we implemented it. We've got our worldwide plans into the system, plus we can manage our home site seating (more than 1,300 staff) and generate output that impacts our strategic planning,” Donahue explained.

Moving Day
Before installing FM:Interact, The MathWorks facility personnel handled moves manually, which took months to accomplish and required extensive resources. With the implementation of FM:Interact, a team of two facility professionals recently moved more than 500 employees with zero errors in only two weekends.

"Due to old, archaic processes, the entire move process used to take months," Donahue said. "Now we are able to enter data and complete a move in a matter of days. FM:Interact also gives us the opportunity to be much more strategic and make projections months in advance, which could help avoid large moves altogether."

The internal move process is just one example of how the program saves the company time, and therefore, money. "The bottom line is that productivity has been greatly increased since implementing this technology. The ratio of time saved is ten to one; for every 10 minutes we spent prior to FM:Interact we now spend only one minute. I think that speaks for itself," Donahue said.

Perhaps most important, the Web-based facility management solution gives instant access to workplace data, allowing facility professionals to share critical information with executives, other departments, and internal customers through reports, floor plans, data forms and views. This access allows facility departments to produce instant reports highlighting exactly where available space is low, which groups occupy the space, and how much space the organization will need. This frees up the team to focus on more strategic work for the organization.

Using a Web browser, anyone can view DWF floor plans to see real-time details about space allocation and to navigate facility information.

“The key change for us so far is that we've reached the point where our co-op can plot one sheet that illustrates all space for the site: departments, vacancies, planned moves by floor by building,” Donahue said. “One space snapshot gets us all the visual data we need to manage our high growth within the site.”

About the Author: Michelle Nicolson

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